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Lakers blow lead before topping Celtics in OT

The Sports Xchange

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LOS ANGELES — Once the NBA’s fiercest rivalry, the clashes between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers took a backseat recently due to the teams’ mediocre play.

None of that matters to Nick Young, though.

“Just knowing the history,” said Young, the Lakers reserve guard, who grew up in the City of Angels. “Everybody knows the history of the Lakers-Celtics. It’s one of the biggest rivalries ever.”

Guard Jeremy Lin scored 25 points and forward Wesley Johnson had 22, both season highs, as the Lakers ended a seven-game skid with a 118-111 overtime victory over the Celtics on Sunday at Staples Center.

Young added 19 points as the Lakers (14-41) posted just their second win in 18 games and saved face in the extra period after a blowing a nine-point lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation.

“I just wanted the game to keep going because we all hadn’t been making shots like this in a while, so we just wanted to continue that feeling into overtime,” joked Young, who made five of nine attempts on the night, including three of five from 3-point range.

Forward Jae Crowder scored 22 points to lead the Celtics, who lost for the third time in four games. Guards Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley had 21 and 20 points, respectively, for Boston (20-33).

“We just fell short,” said Bradley, who managed 8-of-20 shooting from the floor and 4-of-10 beyond the 3-point arc. “We had point-blank shots at the basket in overtime.”

Los Angeles held a 103-94 lead with 1:28 remaining in regulation after a fadeaway by Young, but the Lakers failed to close the deal.

Boston scored seven consecutive points to pull within 103-101 after a 3-pointer by Bradley with 18.7 seconds remaining. Two free throws by Young with 12.4 seconds left gave Los Angeles a four-point cushion. Crowder’s layup cut the deficit to two again with 8.5 seconds left before Young missed one of two free throws with 8.2 seconds.

Bradley forced overtime with a 3-pointer from behind the top of the key at the horn.

In the extra session, the Lakers jumped to a 112-106 lead in the opening two minutes. Boston cut the gap to 112-109 on a three-point play by Crowder at 1:19. After the teams exchanged baskets, Lakers guard Wayne Ellington hit two free throws with 16.1 seconds left to cap the win.

Los Angeles hit 51.2 percent of its shots compared to 42.9 percent for the Celtics. Lin connected on 10 of 15 attempts, and Johnson hit nine of 11 shots.

“I thought Jeremy Lin killed us the whole night,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “He was really effective in a lot of ways, not only scoring the ball but also getting into the paint and making plays for others.”

The game swung in the Lakers’ favor midway through the fourth quarter. After Young’s 3-point bucket gave Los Angeles a 91-87 lead, Thomas was called for an offensive foul on the other end by referee Tony Brothers. Thomas was called for a technical foul after he slammed the ball to the court, then was ejected when he threw the ball to Brothers with 5:03 remaining.

“He has to be there at the end,” Stevens said.

Thomas was playing his first game in a Boston uniform after being obtained in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. He wasn’t available for comment after the game but apologized to teammates for his behavior.

“We understand he made a mistake, but you can’t fault him for that,” said Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who finished with 11 points. “He’s passionate. It was a mistake that anyone else could make. You could live with that type of mistake because he was out there giving his all.”

Earlier Sunday, the Celtics announced that forward Jared Sullinger, the team’s leading scorer (14.4 points) and rebounder (8.1 rebounds), would miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot.

“Obviously, it’s a tough loss for our team, but we’re going to have to figure out how to be good in his absence by committee,” Stevens said. “Anytime you lose a really good player, you have to figure it out as a group. You don’t necessarily figure it out with one person covering what he’s done.”

NOTES: Boston G Evan Turner finished with 12 points and 12 assists, but he made just five of 19 shots from the floor. … Celtics G Phil Pressey, the son of Lakers assistant coach Paul Pressey, did not play Sunday. … The Celtics won the teams’ initial meeting of the season 113-96 on Dec. 5 at TD Garden. … Boston caps its three-game swing at the Phoenix Suns on Monday. … Los Angeles visits the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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NBA News Wire

Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.

Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.

Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”

Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.

Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?

“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”

The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.

“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”

Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.

“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”

Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.

Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.

“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”

The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.

Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.

“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.

Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.

Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.

NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.

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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

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SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.

Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.

In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

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NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.

Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”

Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.

“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”

In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.

He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.

Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.

–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.

“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”

Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.

“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.

–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.

Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.

–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.

Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.

–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.

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